Leader-centric views have become a dogma in contemporary accounts of school leadership, and organizational performance is seen to reduce to explanations of what individuals do. Hence, a school’s failure is attributed to poor principal performance that may range from merely indifferent to outright unethical conduct that may exhibit “the dark side” of leadership. Judging “good” or “bad” behavior in individualistic terms has a long history and is enshrined in the doctrine of the autonomous agent in possession of “free will.” Conceived thus, the autonomous agent can be held responsible for his or her actions. This chapter examines the notion of “free will” both in its philosophical and everyday meaning and argues that biological agents, such as principals, act responsibly or irresponsibly (or unethically), not on the basis of the presence or absence of metaphysical “free will,” but on the basis of the neurobiology of non-conscious decision-making processes and the constraints of the social, organizational, environments in which they work. The argument is developed by examining two positions from social psychology and neuroscience, respectively, which raise the specter of “free will” as mere illusion, with potentially negative consequences for responsible and ethical conduct. But “free will skepticism” is not warranted and “free will,” or the ability of biological-social agents to choose, is real but is also constrained by external, non-biological, factors. While individual responsibility remains important, it is enmeshed in a much wider causal field and cannot be assumed a priori. If and when it obtains is to be determined after investigation. Some implications of the social cognitive perspective on responsible action and accountability are sketched in the last part of this chapter.
Lakomski, G. (2016), "Why Leaders Are Not Always to Blame: From “Free Will” to Responsible Action", The Dark Side of Leadership: Identifying and Overcoming Unethical Practice in Organizations (Advances in Educational Administration, Vol. 26), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 253-267. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-366020160000026014Download as .RIS
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